EU could hit Microsoft with big fine on Wednesday

Wednesday may be an interesting day at Microsoft's offices. A new report claims that the long threatened fine against the company from the European Union could be revealed on that day, due to Microsoft's violations of a 2009 anti-trust agreement with the EU.

The report comes from the New York Times and comes after a previous report from Reuters that the fine would be imposed by the end of March. If the NYT story is true, it means that the EU's timetable has been moved up a bit.

In 2009, Microsoft signed an agreement with the EU that would give owners of Windows-based PCs in Europe a required menu that would display many different web browsers to download, including Microsoft's own Internet Explorer. Microsoft did admit in July that a number of Windows-based PCs did not display the required web browser download menu in Europe.

The company said a software glitch was to blame and has since sent out an update to the affected Windows 7 PCs to restore the menu. It has also said it will continue to show the menu screen beyond the previously agreed to time period.

Even with the apology, the software fix and the extended time period for the menu, the EU could impose a fine on Microsoft that in theory could be as much as 10 percent of its total annual worldwide revenue, which puts an upper limit of $7 billion for the fine. 

Source: New York Times | Image via Microsoft

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I swear it Microsoft should've done just like they did with Windows N and released a Windows NB (no browser) for the EU market and leave it to OEMs to integrate IE or whatever browser they chose.

Because this is a bit over the top. 10percent of their global revenue? So basically the EU even wants to benefit from sales that didn't even happen on their soil. Isn't that called unjust benefiting? Isn't there laws against such things?

ctrl_alt_delete said,
I swear it Microsoft should've done just like they did with Windows N and released a Windows NB (no browser) for the EU market and leave it to OEMs to integrate IE or whatever browser they chose.

They can't. Windows Help files depend on the IE engine, as do many pieces of software. (For example, Quicken's main screen is rendered with the IE engine.)

The EU need money to help poor people who will get a job from MS, Google, and Apple. I am sure that EU will fine them often. Worst monoploy number 1: Google

gameboy1977 said,
The EU need money to help poor people who will get a job from MS, Google, and Apple. I am sure that EU will fine them often. Worst monoploy number 1: Google

Oh, this gave me a good idea. How about the EU force Google next with a pop-up on google.com to show other search engines out there like Bing, Baidu etc?

And if they don't comply "Sorry but we think 7bn is exactly the right amount to fine you" sounds good huh?

alwaysonacoffebreak said,
Oh, this gave me a good idea. How about the EU force Google next with a pop-up on google.com to show other search engines out there like Bing, Baidu etc?

Microsoft was fined because, amongst other things, it was putting pressure on OEMs not to install competing browsers, which is in breach of competition law. If Google is guilty of the same behaviour then it should face similar consequences.

Google has been investigated by the EU numerous times and it has been forced to alter its business practices - it is also facing a significant fine for its search practices and privacy violations.

theyarecomingforyou said,

Microsoft was fined because, amongst other things, it was putting pressure on OEMs not to install competing browsers, which is in breach of competition law. If Google is guilty of the same behaviour then it should face similar consequences.

Google has been investigated by the EU numerous times and it has been forced to alter its business practices - it is also facing a significant fine for its search practices and privacy violations.

Please shut up, you are embarrassing yourself. This is nothing more than fund extraction. If they actually were concerned about browser monopoly they would apply the rule to ALL companies. Why does Apple get off free when their iOS doesn't even let you run a different browser apart from Safari. Everything else on there HAS to use the safari engine. It's ridiculous and you know it, I mean 7 Billion dollars, seriously.

ingramator said,
It's ridiculous and you know it, I mean 7 Billion dollars, seriously.

As already stated, that's the maximum possible fine. There is absolutely no indication that the fine is going to be anywhere near that high.

Why not charging Linux for putting Firefox or chrome as default browser or Mac safari or chrome os. This is ridiculous everybody knows how to download a browser.

*sigh*

> Why not charging Linux for putting Firefox or chrome as default browser or Mac safari or chrome os.
Because, for the 1000th time, they are not a monopoly in the desktop OS market.

> This is ridiculous everybody knows how to download a browser.
You'd be surprised.

Not sure on the fine, but I've seen this screen being more than an annoyance when installing W7 and W8 on pc's.
Don't know how many pc's were affected with the 'glitch', but I've never seen a pc that didn't show the 'choose a internet browser' screen....

helios01 said,
MS hasn't been a monopoly for a long time, why are they even under this type of scrutiny?

No longer a monopoly in what?

In the desktop pc market, Windows is as much a monopoly as it was when this issue was first investigated.

If this were a European company facing the same issues with the US government there would be an endless queue of Americans talking about how it was tough because they violated us law. Well the same applies here, misguided patriotism and US nationalism do not outrank European law, sorry.

The way this article is worded is worded is largely responsible for the skewed view of the comments in this thread. Do yourself a favor and read the source article.

Let's reword this in a more neutral fashion:

In 2009, Microsoft signed an agreement with the EU that would give owners of Windows-based PCs in Europe a required menu that would display many different web browsers to download, including Microsoft's own Internet Explorer.
In 2009, Microsoft was found guilty of breaking anti-competition law in the EU with its Internet Explorer web browser. It did not pay a fine, but agreed to install a system offering alternative browsers for five years instead.

Microsoft did admit in July that a number of Windows-based PCs did not display the required web browser download menu in Europe.
Millions of users of the Windows 7 SP1 version from February 2011 to July 2012 were not offered the required choice of browsers.

The company said a software glitch was to blame and has since sent out an update to the affected Windows 7 PCs to restore the menu. It has also said it will continue to show the menu screen beyond the previously agreed to time period.
The company said it only learned of the glitch when the commission notified them, and subsequently fixed the issue. [Nowhere does the article state that Microsoft would continue to show the screen beyond the agreed to time period]. Microsoft emphasized that it was a regrettable mistake.

Even with the apology, the software fix and the extended time period for the menu, the EU could impose a fine on Microsoft that in theory could be as much as 10 percent of its total annual worldwide revenue, which puts an upper limit of $7 billion for the fine.
Microsoft faces a fine of up to $7 billion, however analysts say it is highly unlikely to ever reach that level. The largest fine ever levied for an antitrust case was $1.4 billion against Intel in 2009.

“The commission (...) has an incentive to slap on a big fine in this case to ensure that companies, which are hard to monitor, get the message that it will be costly down the road if they get caught defying settlement orders,” said Nicolas Petit, a professor of competition law and economics at the University of Liège in Belgium.

theyarecomingforyou said,
Exactly. People don't seem to understand the reason the browser ballot was required, nor that the fine is unlikely to be anywhere near the $7bn maximum.

Doesn't matter what the fine is, there shouldn't be one nor should the EU single out one particular company.

ingramator said,
Doesn't matter what the fine is, there shouldn't be one nor should the EU single out one particular company.
The EU doesn't single out Microsoft. Any company that breaks its laws is subject to prosecutions. Intel had a bad taste of it that same year, Google is currently under investigation.

If the EU doesn't take disciplinary actions against those who defy its orders, then it won't be taken seriously. This is what any responsible authority does.

ingramator said,
Doesn't matter what the fine is, there shouldn't be one nor should the EU single out one particular company.

Your ignorance to the EU's tough stance on anti-competitive behaviour is embarrassing. The EU is in no way singling out Microsoft. It has fined hundreds of companies for various violations, including: Toshiba, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Philips, Intel, DHL, UPS, ArcelorMittal, Eni, Shell, Total, Dow Chemical, Aventis, Daiichi Pharmaceutical, Gretsch-Unitas, Hynix, Infineon, NEC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Irish Sugar, Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Michelin, Telefonica, Portugal Telecom, Degussa, Nippon Soda.

It has also exempted companies from fines for revealing cartels, including: Micron, Roto, DHL, Lufthansa, Aventis.

The idea that Microsoft is being singled out is simply nonsense.

Yeah but, 7 billion? That is singling out Microsoft with the largest fines ever. Oh well they need to stabilise the euro...

Riva said,
Yeah but, 7 billion? That is singling out Microsoft with the largest fines ever. Oh well they need to stabilise the euro...

That's the maximum fine that could be imposed but analysts have said the fine is highly unlikely to be anywhere near that. The largest fine ever imposed by the EU was €1.1bn and that was against Intel. So again, there's absolutely no evidence to support the notion that Microsoft is being singled out.

Unfortunately this is a classic case of Neowin misrepresenting a story to make it appear more sensational and people taking the bait.

MS should base their EU distribution channels through North Korea. Maybe they'll get more favorable terms.

As a EU citizen I'm ashamed by this ridiculous behavior of the EU. I also wonder when Google will be next (they seem far more intrusive in my humble opinion, yet they should not blame the companies but educate the users themselves instead...)

What they're doing now, is moronic: Very simple comparison: force a local butcher to put advertisements for other butchers nearby in his store so people can "choose" and "be informed"...

So apart from those stupid regulation committees, which people in the EU can't vote for directly, don't be judgmental towards the citizens, where most people would disagree with this ruling in the first place.

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